Assistant professor Richard Protovin, who taught at NYU until 1988, devised the initial curriculum consisting of three classes: Art & Design; Animation I; Animation II. The Richard Protovin Award, an annual NYU competitive offering of finishing funds for student animated films, was established in 1992 in Protovin’s honor.

In 1980, seeking to expand the area’s offerings, Protovin hired John Canemaker as an adjunct instructor to teach Action Analysis and History of Animation. Canemaker has headed the program since becoming a full-time associate professor in 1988; he gained tenure in 1994 and full professorship in 1997, and in 2009 received NYU’s Distinguished Teaching Award “for exceptional teaching inside and outside the classroom.” Protovin and Canemaker developed the area’s curriculum with a variety of courses that cover all areas of the art form and its guiding philosophy. The aim of the Animation area, then and now, was to provide an “animation atelier” with individualized emphasis given on developing the artistic voice of each student. A place where students receive a thorough grounding in the principles and art of animation and its full spectrum of techniques. The Animation area was the first program to bring digital technologyinto the Kanbar department. The current Animation curriculum consists of nearly twenty different classes that embrace the mainstream, the traditional, the experimental and the personal genre in techniques that range from digital to hand-drawn to stop motion.

In academic year 1980-81, eighty students enrolled in the five classes offered. In academic 2013, there were 461 students! It should be noted that the current animation classes are not limited to students who wish to become animators. Kanbar Animation is truly a cross-over arena that welcomes and nurtures all UGFTV students. Our classes encompass critical and lateral thinking and cinematic communication skills that appeal to a wide swath of the UGFTV student population, and are of benefit to numerous disciplines, such as live-action directing, acting, cinematography, set design, writing and storytelling in the digital age.

Alex Woo, who is a top story artist at Pixar, once recalled his days as an NYU UFGTV student: “I took refuge in the animation department, where entertainment was not only accepted, but cherished. Under the tutelage of John Canemaker and the other animation professors, I found a place where my creativity could run amuck. I rediscovered my love for the medium of film.” [Alex Woo’s Blog, February 28, 2007] Alex’s thesis animated film, Rex Steele: Nazi Smasher won him a student Academy Award and screenings in forty film festivals around the world, and the attention of Pixar. Five Kanbar Animation students have produced Student Academy Award-winning films; in addition to Alex Woo, they include Daniel Kanemoto, Dan Blank, Sarah Wickliffe and Brendan Bellomo.

NYU Kanbar Animation area guest speakers through the years have included Frank Thomas; Ollie Johnston; Marc Davis; Pete Docter; Andrew Stanton; Chuck Jones; Ralph Bakshi; Tissa David; Michael Sporn; Jennifer Oxley; Jeffrey Katzenberg; Roy E. Disney; Andreas Deja; Michael Dougherty; Marge Champion; Steve Hickner; Tom Sito; Peter Lord; Carlos Saldanha; Emily Hubley; Chris Butler; George Griffin; David Polonski; Ed Catmull; Amid Amidi; Willis Pyle; among others.